Rean: The Unconventional Protagonist (CS I and II spoilers)

Discussion in 'The Legend of Heroes Series' started by Trails of Persona, Jul 29, 2019.

  1. Trails of Persona

    Trails of Persona Active Member

    A few months ago I discussed how class VII was introduced and how that was used for their character development for the first game and somewhat into the second game. I left Rean out but now being over halfway my third playthrough of CS II, I am ready to dive down into my full thoughts of a character that I have mixed feelings about. However, for this opening post I will leave out my negatives and focus on the positives and what Falcom wants to convey to the player. As a warning, open spoilers for both CS I and II.

    First, it's important to discuss why I and others might have a harsh initial reaction to Rean in the first place. Media definitely shapes how we see things, and in JRPGs and anything with a lot of action there is usually a more straightforward approach to characters. A character can be optimistic or pessimistic, loud or quiet, but generally their arc follows a pretty neat path. Using Estelle as an example, while not a huge character arc for her there is a moment in the second game where we see her progess as a character reach the climax, seeing her use what she learns for a big moment. Shortly after that, her immediate goal of the game is achieved and we can all cheer and cry in the moment. After that everything else falls into place to reach the end goal of the game. With most media having this I look for those moments because they end up being the most cathartic and usually are the most built up moment.

    However, as far as the first two cold steel games go we don't really get that moment. Yes, we kind of get that moment in CS II, but by the end of II Rean loses that progress, and arguably he's worse off then he was at the very beginning of CS I (more on that later). Being so used to having a character have their grand epiphany and keep moving on from there, having someone who ultimately regresses by the end was a huge change for me I think my first instinct was to hate it without giving it any thought or chance. So it took multiple playthroughs over the years with me changing how I looked at the world to finally give the chance it deserves, and here I am.

    In CS I, Rean is a character with no direction, and no sense of place, which is pointed out by Sara early on in the game. He seems content to move from place to place but if he can't find some sort of ground once it's swept from underneath him he'll have a hard time. As most of the game goes by, it does feel like he's mostly going through the motions, not really doing anything he wants to do, and the things he was originally forced to do he's fine with doing. As a player, it feels like he doesn't have a sense of self, where if you were to describe most of the rest of the cast it would be easy to pin them down. However, if one was to ask who is Rean Shwarzer, there's not much of an answer. He helps people and uses the sword and that's about it.

    This was off putting to me and still can be, but it is understandable based on what we get. First, Rean is raised in a family he's not related to by blood, and from real world accounts those who are adopted, no matter how loving the family, will have trouble fully accepting their situation and various questions will arise. While Rean doesn't complain about why he was abandoned in the first two games, him feeling the need to slowly distance himself away from his adoptive family shows how it affects him. Then there's the fact he has an unexplainable and uncontrollable power in him, a power that scares him and could easily harm those around him. Add those two together it's easy how he can be distant despite on the outside he seems to make an effort to become friends with others. He wants to help others to feel validated as a person, but keeps others far enough away to not burden them.

    We do get this confronted early into CS II, twice in fact. Once again, this is something that initially put me off because of how against the norms it went with how these developments happen. At the end of CS I we get the most emotion we've seen out of Rean, despair as he's forced to leave his friends behind at what is inevitable defeat against Crow in the Azure knight. He talks about how he feels like he brings nothing but trouble to those around him and doesn't deserve the love he gets from those around him, thinking that they are doing it mostly out of pity in a way. However he does come to realize that people do genuinely care about him and that he is not the burden he thinks he is. This gets him back on his feet and motivates him to find his class and rescue both Alfin and Elise. In most stories, this would be the moment he makes his realization and it's all uphill from there, but that's not what happens.

    After the class gets back together then he boards the Pantagruel, he hits another slump where he feels powerless and perhaps has been selfish. While perhaps the conversations themselves have their differences, the underlying idea of them are the same, Rean is still struggling to find himself amongst all of this. He thought getting everyone back together would help things work out, but being separated again he doubts his actions and once again can't find a sense of place. This time around though, he finds the ability to take control of the power in himself after being given another pep talk. In this case, I think Rean finally understands he was holding on to his past too much. Before he didn't think he should belong anywhere, and in this case he still felt indebted to completely let go of certain feeling. In a way, he understands that he did what he wanted, and while it didn't go completely how he expected that doesn't mean he was wrong for what he did. Between that and being able to let go of the past with his power, he can finally take a step forward, and his first step to making his own person is to bring Crow back.

    However, this is a fatal flaw for Rean, as it still shows that he hasn't completely let go, or in another way, he holds onto a different part of his past to go to. His time at the academy was where he was most happy and he feels going back to those days is what is best for him. As a player, we question all sorts of things about how that will work in the context of the game, but that just adds to the tragedy of Rean's character which culminated into the climax and finale of the game.

    Crow dies, Osborne is alive and Rean's biological father, and Class VII once again is separated. Rean fought his hardest for what he wanted, and in the end, all the work was for nothing. Those blissful days at the academy with his friends are over and he becomes a symbol, a puppet, for the Empire. When Rean returns from the campaign in Crossbell, he has a moment where he breaks down with Towa as we see that once again, Rean has lost his place. He tries to put on a good face, but no matter what he says or does that place he wanted to go back to is gone, and once again he's forced to blow in the wind, directionless and with no purpose.

    Rean's life in these games are in constant flux, and every time there's a high for him, something happens to bring a new low. In a way, Reans situation mirrors what is going on in the world, when things are going good the outlook of the world is looking good, and when it's going bad we have a bleaker look at the world. By the end of the game with the campaign in Crossbell, things have the most bleak outlook, and by the time the credits roll, you are left with an empty feeling with nothing accomplished. When viewed that way it's a brilliant way of story telling and an interesting way to write a character. It's not something you get a lot of in games like this so it is appreciated to try it out whether it works well or not. When I lay all that out looking at Reans character, I can appreciate what Falcom set out to do and can enjoy Rean.

    That said, while I have come to appreciate what Falcom was going for, there are various things that stop me from being able to love Rean as a character. I promised I wouldn't go into negatives so I won't, but even getting past personal bias there's other things that just can't get me fully invested. Still, with Rean it has been interesting with how my view of him has changed so much since the first cold steel came out in the states. I do look forward to see how Reans story is completed once CS III and IV have been released here.
  2. Ghaleon

    Ghaleon Active Member

    People like giving essays on rean eh?

    For what its worth I agree with yours the most.
    Cold_Steel_IV likes this.
  3. avensis

    avensis New Member

    Last edited: Oct 10, 2019
    Cold_Steel_IV likes this.

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